Novavax's 2nd round of job cuts reached 12% of staff, though execs say that should be it for now

Novavax says 12% of its workforce was cut as part of a second wave of layoffs announced at the end of 2023, bringing last year’s full-year staff reduction to about 30%. 

The specific figure disclosed Wednesday morning adds clarity to the savings goal unveiled in November 2023—to bring general expenses and R&D costs below $750 million in 2024, a greater than 50% reduction from 2022 levels. The figure included $300 million in new reductions, the majority of which came from general expenses and R&D with an additional $100 million from reduced supply chain spending. Novavax announced in May that 25% of the team would be laid off. 

In an interview with the company’s management team at this year’s J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, CEO John Jacobs said those are all the cuts the company has in store for now.

The scaled-back spending is the byproduct of the COVID market crunch that’s impacted all vaccine developers, including Moderna and Pfizer. Each company has had to write off billions in unused supply due to diminished demand. Novavax’s vaccine remains under emergency use authorization in the U.S., but Chief Operating Officer John Trizzino tentatively expects full approval in late August or September. 

Company leaders maintain that these cuts were imperative to stay afloat and match the realities of the COVID market, while simultaneously providing enough capital to afford further development of a flu-COVID vaccine combo, with a phase 3 trial slated for humans later this year. That combo could launch as soon as 2026.

“[2023] was stabilize, reduce expenses, streamline manufacturing, make sure we get the vaccine out the door...[and] positioning the company to independently bring forward our next piece of the pipeline,” Jacobs said earlier this month.  

Beyond the COVID and flu combo, Novavax has a malaria vaccine that’s been recommended by the World Health Organization and Jacobs said the data gleaned by the combo shot should provide the option to make a standalone flu vaccine. 

“We've made dozens and dozens of antigens for different diseases,” said President of R&D Filip Dubovsky, M.D. “The question then is just making sure we choose the right one that people need.”

He added that it “wouldn’t be a stretch of imagination” to think the company was working on an RSV component to include in a future combo shot or standalone vaccine. If that happens, it would be a story of redemption, after the company flunked a phase 3 trial testing an RSV F-protein vaccine back in 2016. 

“We are working with a number of partners, both internally and externally, to evaluate different vaccine candidates with our adjuvant,” Dubovsky said.